Leviticus 21:6
They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.
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(6) They shall be holy unto their God.—This is the reason why the priests are not to disfigure themselves by maiming their outward appearance. Being sacred to the Lord, they are not to indulge in those outward manifestations of grief which would interfere with the discharge of their sacred duties, and thus cause the name of God to be profaned.

The offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God.—Better, the offerings of the Lord made by fire, being the food of God. As the altar was the table, the sacrifice burnt on it was called His food. (See Leviticus 3:11.)

Leviticus 21:6. Holy unto their God — Devoted to God’s service, and always prepared for it, and therefore shall keep themselves from all defilements. The name of their God — Which they especially bear. The bread of their God — That is, the show-bread; or rather, all the other offerings besides burnt-offerings; which are called bread, because bread is commonly put for all food.

21:1-24 Laws concerning the priests. - As these priests were types of Christ, so all ministers must be followers of him, that their example may teach others to imitate the Saviour. Without blemish, and separate from sinners, He executed his priestly office on earth. What manner of persons then should his ministers be! But all are, if Christians, spiritual priests; the minister especially is called to set a good example, that the people may follow it. Our bodily infirmities, blessed be God, cannot now shut us out from his service, from these privileges, or from his heavenly glory. Many a healthful, beautiful soul is lodged in a feeble, deformed body. And those who may not be suited for the work of the ministry, may serve God with comfort in other duties in his church.The word here and in Leviticus 21:8 rendered "bread", is the same as is rendered food in Leviticus 3:11, Leviticus 3:16, etc., and meat in Leviticus 22:11. The reader of the English Bible should keep in view that bread, meat, and food, were nearly equivalent terms when our translation was made, and represent no distinctions that exist in the Hebrew. 5. They shall not make baldness upon their heads … nor … cuttings in their flesh—The superstitious marks of sorrow, as well as the violent excesses in which the heathen indulged at the death of their friends, were forbidden by a general law to the Hebrew people (Le 19:28). But the priests were to be laid under a special injunction, not only that they might exhibit examples of piety in the moderation of their grief, but also by the restraint of their passions, be the better qualified to administer the consolations of religion to others, and show, by their faith in a blessed resurrection, the reasons for sorrowing not as those who have no hope. Holy unto their God; devoted to God’s service, and always prepared and fit for it; and therefore shall keep themselves as far as they can from all defilement, which makes them unmeet for their Master’s use.

Not profane the name of their God, which they especially bear; they shall not disparage the service of God by making it give place to such slight occasions.

The bread of their God, i.e. the shew-bread; or rather, all the other offerings besides burntofferings; which are called bread, either because bread is commonly put for all food, as below, Leviticus 21:17,21; or because God is satisfied and refreshed with these offerings, as a man is with his bread; or rather, because they, or part of them, are the bread or food of the priests, and are here called the bread of their God, either objectively, because they were offered to God, or efficiently, because they were given by God to the priests. And these are called bread in opposition to the burnt-offerings, which being wholly consumed gave no food to the priests. Or, the offerings made by fire are here put synecdochically for all the rest, the most eminent kind for all, which are here called bread, because devoured by fire to the honour of God; for the particle and is not in the Hebrew, and may be omitted.

They shall be holy unto their God,.... Sacred to his service, and wholly given up to it, and not interest themselves in things which hindered from it, or made them unfit for it; and such care becomes the ministers of the word, who should give up themselves to it, and not entangle themselves with other affairs; they should be clean, pure, and holy, that bear the vessels of the Lord, and minister in holy things, and should set an example of purity and holiness to others:

and not profane the name of their God; or cause it to be profaned and evil spoken of on their account, or his service to be interrupted, and they who bore his name put upon a level with common persons through their pollutions:

for the offerings of the Lord made by fire; the burnt offerings, which were offered up to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering every day, besides others on divers occasions:

and the bread of their God do they offer; the shewbread, which they set every week before the Lord on the shewbread table, and the meat or bread offering, the "minchah", which they continually offered along with the sacrifices: or the word "and", being a supplement, may be left out; and so this clause is put by way of apposition, and as interpreting the fire offering to be the bread of their God, which being wholly burnt on the altar, and devoted to God, was his meat and food, and accepted by him, see Leviticus 3:11,

therefore they shall be holy; separate from all others, and abstain from all impurity both of flesh and spirit, from all uncleanness, moral and ceremonial; it being highly fit and proper that the bread of God should be offered by holy persons.

They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.
6. The reason is given for the restriction in Leviticus 21:1, viz. that the name of God, whose ministers they are, may not be polluted by ceremonial uncleanness.

the offerings of the Lord made by fire] This expression, or its equivalent, is very frequent in P.The words are probably an insertion from that source here, and so in Leviticus 21:21, Leviticus 22:22; Leviticus 22:27, Leviticus 23:13; Leviticus 23:18.

the bread of their God] See Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 3:16.

Leviticus 21:6The priest was not to defile himself on account of a soul, i.e., a dead person (nephesh, as in Leviticus 19:28), among his countrymen, unless it were of his kindred, who stood near to him (i.e., in the closest relation to him), formed part of the same family with him (cf. Leviticus 21:3), such as his mother, father, son, daughter, brother, or a sister who was still living with him as a virgin and was not betrothed to a husband (cf. Ezekiel 44:25). As every corpse not only defiled the persons who touched it, but also the tent or dwelling in which the person had died (Numbers 19:11, Numbers 19:14); in the case of death among members of the family or household, defilement was not to be avoided on the part of the priest as the head of the family. It was therefore allowable for him to defile himself on account of such persons as these, and even to take part in their burial. The words of Leviticus 21:4 are obscure: "He shall not defile himself בּעמּיו בּעל, i.e., as lord (pater-familias) among his countrymen, to desecrate himself;" and the early translators have wandered in uncertainty among different renderings. In all probability בּעל denotes the master of the house or husband. But, for all that, the explanation given by Knobel and others, "as a husband he shall not defile himself on the death of his wife, his mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, by taking part in their burial," is decidedly to be rejected. For, apart from the unwarrantable introduction of the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, there is sufficient to prevent our thinking of defilement on the death of a wife, in the fact that the wife is included in the "kin that is near unto him" in Leviticus 21:2, though not in the way that many Rabbins suppose, who maintain that שׁאר signifies wife, but implicite, the wife not being expressly mentioned, because man and wife form one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and the wife stands nearer to the husband than father and mother, son and daughter, or brother and sister. Nothing is proved by appealing to the statement made by Plutarch, that the priests of the Romans were not allowed to defile themselves by touching the corpses of their wives; inasmuch as there is no trace of this custom to be found among the Israelites, and the Rabbins, for this very reason, suppose the death of an illegitimate wife to be intended. The correct interpretation of the words can only be arrived at by considering the relation of the fourth verse to what precedes and follows. As Leviticus 21:1-3 stand in a very close relation to Leviticus 21:5 and Leviticus 21:6, - the defilement on account of a dead person being more particularly explained in the latter, or rather, strictly speaking, greater force being given to the prohibition, - it is natural to regard Leviticus 21:4 as standing in a similar relation to Leviticus 21:7, and to understand it as a general prohibition, which is still more clearly expounded in Leviticus 21:7 and Leviticus 21:9. The priest was not to defile himself as a husband and the head of a household, either by marrying a wife of immoral or ambiguous reputation, or by training his children carelessly, so as to desecrate himself, i.e., profane the holiness of his rank and office by either one or the other (cf. Leviticus 21:9 and Leviticus 21:15). - In Leviticus 21:5 desecration is forbidden in the event of a death occurring. He was not to shave a bald place upon his head. According to the Chethib יקרחה is to be pointed with ה- attached, and the Keri יקרחוּ is a grammatical alteration to suit the plural suffix in בּראשׁם, which is obviously to be rejected on account of the parallel יגלּחוּ לא זקנם וּפאת. In both of the clauses there is a constructio ad sensum, the prohibition which is addressed to individuals being applicable to the whole: upon their head shall no one shave a bald place, namely, in front above the forehead, "between the eyes" (Deuteronomy 14:1). We may infer from the context that reference is made to a customary mode of mourning for the dead; and this is placed beyond all doubt by Deuteronomy 14:1, where it is forbidden to all the Israelites "for the dead." According to Herodotus, 2, 36, the priests in Egypt were shaven, whereas in other places they wore their hair long. In other nations it was customary for those who were more immediately concerned to shave their heads as a sign of mourning; but the Egyptians let their hair grow both upon their head and chin when any of their relations were dead, whereas they shaved at other times. The two other outward signs of mourning mentioned, namely, cutting off the edge of the beard and making incisions in the body, have already been forbidden in Leviticus 19:27-28, and the latter is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:1. The reason for the prohibition is given in Leviticus 21:6 - "they shall be holy unto their God," and therefore not disfigure their head and body by signs of passionate grief, and so profane the name of their God when they offer the firings of Jehovah; that is to say, when they serve and approach the God who has manifested Himself to His people as the Holy One. On the epithet applied to the sacrifices, "the food of God," see at Leviticus 3:11 and Leviticus 3:16.
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